Day 755: Putin’s remarks after vote question Russia’s stated “red lines”

The Institute for the Study of War breaks down Putin’s remarks on possibility of Western troops in Ukraine, cross-border raids into Russia. The EU will be able to produce enough ammunition, the Czech President says. Poland and Germany launch an armored capability coalition for Ukraine. 

ISW breaks down Putin’s remarks on possibility of Western troops in Ukraine, cross-border raids into Russia 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to use claimed record levels of voter turnout and support for his presidential candidacy to set informational conditions for a protracted war in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in a report on March 18.

Responding to President Macron’s remarks about sending troops to Ukraine, Putin stated on March 18 that military personnel from NATO member countries are already in Ukraine, including personnel who speak French and English, and acknowledged Macron’s claim that Western personnel would perform “secondary functions.” Putin also reiterated Kremlin talking points about the possibility of full-scale conflict between Russia and NATO and Russia’s feigned interest in peace negotiations aimed at undermining Western support for Ukraine and convincing Western countries to push Ukraine into negotiations that would ultimately undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, ISW said. Putin’s claim that Western military personnel are already operating in Ukraine suggests that Putin believes that the West has already violated this purported “red line,” and thus that Western concern over Russia’s response to the violation of the “red line” (if it ever existed at all) is baseless. ISW previously noted that Ukrainian forces and Western assistance to Ukraine have crossed Russia’s supposed “red lines” several times over the course of the war without drawing a significant Russian reaction, indicating that many of Russia’s “red lines” are most likely information operations designed to deter Ukrainian and Western actions.

Putin admitted that the all-Russian pro-Ukrainian volunteer forces are comprised of Russian citizens amid the continuation of cross-border raids into Belgorod Oblast on March 18. Putin stated on March 18 that “four groups of traitors” are conducting cross-border raids into Russia and insinuated that Russia will execute the traitors. Putin claimed that Russian forces have destroyed 800 of the 2,500 all-Russian pro-Ukrainian personnel he estimated to be involved in conducting the attacks into Russia. Putin previously accused “Ukrainian forces” of conducted the cross-border raids on March 12 to 15. Russian milbloggers praised Putin and agreed that Russian “traitors” need to be “eliminated,” despite previously also claiming that “Ukrainian forces“ were conducting the raids into Belgorod and Kursk oblasts. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) recently added a section to its daily situational report to account for the “Belgorod direction,” suggesting concern within the Russian MoD regarding how long these cross-border raids will continue, ISW said. Russian sources, including the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the volunteer forces continued limited ground attacks near Spodaryushino and Kozinka, Belgorod Oblast and the Siberian Battalion posted a photo claiming to show volunteer forces operating in Kozinka. The previous raids appear to have been more limited than the current raids, which began on March 12 and have continued over the past six days.

EU will be able to produce enough ammunition, Czech President says

European countries will be soon able to produce enough ammunition to refill domestic stocks and send it to Ukraine, Czech President Petr Pavel told RFE/RL. 

“Production of sufficient amounts of ammunition takes time. We need to ramp up our production. But Ukraine needs ammunition right now,” Pavel said. [RFE/RL released his comments in Ukrainian, we translated them into English].  

“We cannot wait until European companies are ready. That’s why we are trying to find ammunition wherever we can and send it to Ukraine as quickly as possible. In parallel, we are building up our capacity. In the near future, European companies will be able to produce enough ammunition to replenish their stocks and provide Ukraine with ammunition if it still needs it,” Pavel said.

He earlier said that it is now not possible to imagine Ukraine and Russia negotiating an end to the war.

Poland, Germany launch armored capability coalition for Ukraine

Poland and Germany are activating an armored-vehicle coalition to aid Ukraine’s fightback against Russia’s invasion, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz told a joint news conference with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in Helenow near Warsaw on Monday.

Kosiniak-Kamysz said that Poland and Germany would lead the coalition, and that other countries had signed up, including the UK, Sweden, and Italy. “It is one of the most important coalitions that have been established,” he said.

Germany’s Pistorius said the capability coalition is set to confront Ukraine’s long-term armor needs.